Touted by Palahniuk as “more engaging than any new fiction in years,” I’d venture that his tastes are vastly different than mine, or that the one-book-per-year contract keeps him so busy that Knockemstiff was one of the few books he was able to get around to reading.
Practically speaking, Knockemstiff works as a collection given that there is a cohesive element. Pollock themes each story based on the inhabitants and grimy locales of this little town in southern Ohio. The lay of the land is palpable; you believe every incest pit and dirt road that Pollock feeds you, and the voice is perfectly spot-on for this backwoods revolving door of white trash, hicks, and trailer park monkeys. In that regard, Knockemstiff succeeds.
About a quarter of the way through is when the question of whether or not everyone in Knockemstiff is a filthy degenerate slips into the mind’s eye, and so the novel falls into the same pitfall that most collections do, a repetitive chorus–in this instance: depravity, depravity, depravity. The book is consistent, and therein lies the problem. If read one after the other, the barrage of these characters and their sad stories do what they intend to do, but even at a meager 200 pages, the effect quickly goes stale as you, the reader, put your proverbial guard up for the next sex scene between cousins or adventure in bad parenting. The walk of life through the town of Knockemstiff is one where only bad things happen, and the realization of this makes it that much easier to put it down.